Published: July 20, 2017
EAST DENNIS, MASS. —– The first lot to cross the block at Eldred’s July 20 marine sale, the Edward Burdett tooth, considered among many in the collecting community as the scrimshander’s masterpiece, commanded a record $456,000, including premium, far above its presale estimate of $160/210,000. Coming from a private American collection and inscribed “Engraved by Edward Burdett of Nantucket Onboard the Ship William Tell,” the tooth depicts a whaling scene of the William Tell and the George and Susan on the obverse and a coastal view of the whaleship William Thomson on the reverse. From the inscription, the tooth was created while Burdett was onboard the ship William Tell, which left New York in November 1829 and returned to port in February 1833. Based on shipping records, it is likely the William Tell encountered the William Thomson and the George and Susan while in the Pacific whaling grounds, somewhere between October 1830 and February 1833.
Burdett was a pioneer of American scrimshaw, and in his short but prolific career he produced what are widely considered masterpieces of the genre. He was born on Nantucket in October 1805, the son of a merchant sea captain. His first whaling voyage was aboard the Foster from 1822 to 1842. In successive voyages he sailed aboard the William Tell and the Montano. In November 1833, while serving as first mate onboard the Montano, Burdett was entangled in line, dragged by a whale overboard and drowned.
“This is certainly one of the best pieces of scrimshaw to come on the market in years,” said Bill Bourne, company vice president and head of the maritime art department at Eldred’s. “The quality of work, its condition and its size are all exceptional.”
Watch for a full report on this sale in a future edition.
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